I’ve loved puppets since the first time I saw a puppet show at my school. Actually they were marionettes, the kind of puppet held by strings by the puppet master above them. I was always fascinated by the way the puppets—usually made of wood – could walk, dance, twirl, even fly.
So it was a delight a few weeks ago to see a professional show by Stevens Puppets. This is a family-owned business located in Bristol in the northern part of the state.
The Allen County Public Library system provided shows for students to view at separate locations in Fort Wayne. A young friend and I dropped in on a performance of “The Wizard of Oz” at the Shawnee Branch.
Some people might think 21st century kids would be bored with ‘old school’ entertainment like puppetry. That is not the case with Stevens Puppets.
When Dan Raynor comes out from behind a brightly-colored stage to introduce himself, he has a big smile on his face. With humor and help from the young members of the audience he tells them about the story and some rules (‘no one can go behind the curtain’). His jokes have the kids laughing and in good humor when the show, i.e. magic, begins.
The kids, some as young as three years old, stayed riveted throughout the 30-minute show.
One part I really loved was at the end of the show when Dan came out from behind the curtain with a puppet demonstration. He first brought Toto, then the Wicked Witch of the West.
He showed his audience how the Witch ‘flew’ through the air. I don't know how he, the sole puppeteer, keeps from getting the strings all mixed up!
Here’s what I find fascinating. The Stevens Puppets is a business that has been around since 1933. All of the puppets we watched in 2015 were carved in 1966 by Martin Stevens. Even the costumes were the same. Aren’t they gorgeous?
Zan Raynor, Dan’s wife, is an artist and paints the beautiful scenery for the shows.
Stevens Puppets has grown into a group of talented puppeteers who travel the country with shows that stay true to the tales of literature that have been loved for hundreds of years.
Besides the shows already mentioned, Stevens Puppets perform Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Rumplestiltskin, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sleeping Beauty, The Toymaker and The Wonderful World of Puppets. I wish I could watch them all. As a former school librarian, I appreciate the effort they put into teaching these timeless tales to children.
Last week, the Stevens Puppets performed "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at Conner Prairie. In late summer they performed at the Indy Greek Fest in Carmel.
I’m disappointed to have missed those shows, but will keep a watch on the Stevens Puppets Facebook page to see when they might next be in my area.
My little friend and I will be sure to see it!